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Complementary Reference Tools

People want to know how the anatomy poster series, The 5 Primary Kinetic Chains, differ from other anatomy posters, specifically Anatomy Train’s Myofascial Meridians.

Let’s start with a little back ground.

I started my exploration of the field of somatics, movement as a therapy, and bodywork strategies, back in 1986. I had suffered a severe injury in a rock climbing fall. I hyper flexed my ankle (dorsal) and broke my talus, the load bone between the leg and the foot. The talus is a unique skeletal bone as it doesn’t have any muscular attachments, rather the talus is held in place by ligaments and the articulation of neighboring joints. I was very fortunate that I didn’t kill the blood supply to the bone and I made phenomenal progress in healing.

I found a great chiropractor that facilitated both manual therapy and movement progressions. I ended up being a case study at Stanford University for the degree of recovery that I realized. I still have a limitation of dorsal flexion, but overall I am very lucky that I met this healer to guide me in what would become my life vocation.

I dabbled with bodywork for a few years before getting formal training in 1992, when I enrolled at Alive & Well, The Institute of Conscious BodyWork in San Anselmo. The school was owned by Jocelyn Oliver and David Weinstock. Jocelyn had pioneered an approach for massage therapy integrating manual muscle testing from Touch For Health. The work progressed and elements of Applied Kinesiology began to integrate as well.

I found myself completely intrigued and absorbed with this approach of changing the response of the nervous system and the structure follows. I sought out as much knowledge as I could about muscle testing, motor control, and strategies in approaching structural change. I was always on the lookout for books that would further my understanding. In my research, I found Dr. George Goodheart’s book, Applied Kinesiology Synopsis. This was the bible of AK and the source to resolve musculoskeletal dysfunction. In a college bookstore, I found another publication, Vernon Brooks’ book, The Neural Basis of Motor Control. I excitingly shared this with my colleagues and teachers. I wanted to understand how cueing in the nervous system with muscle testing could facilitate rapid change in the ability for the structure to respond differently via muscle testing. The Neural Basis of Motor Control helped to answer that question.  Both books are out-of-print, but with a little effort can still be found.

A few years later I moved from California to the Austin, TX area. I quickly gained a reputation for the skill sets I had as a bodyworker. Through a series of referrals from the area’s naturopathic doctors, I found I had a group of practitioners that wanted to learn the approach I used in manual muscle testing combined with structural corrections.

Over the course of years, I developed my own hybrid format from the foundation I learned at Alive & Well. I was seeing patterns in movement. I thought of them as maps. I could trace the maps, find the dysfunctional component, correct that component and reinsert it back into the map.

In 2001 or perhaps 2002, Tom Myers came to Austin to teach his new course Anatomy Trains. One of the students in my group took that course. He said to me, “Joseph, you’re not going to believe this, Tom talks about the connection of movement and fascia like you do. Look at these drawings.” When I looked at them, I saw something very similar to the maps I was sharing with my students. I was intrigued; I was not alone in the discoveries I was making.

Several years later Myers’ posters were published. I purchased a set of posters and would refer to them with clients. The myofascial meridians are an excellent map of how structure links together. Practitioners, students and clients have all benefited from their visual reference.

Fast forward to today.

Here is a look at how these two poster series are different yet complementary. The myofascial meridians are looking through the lens of structure. The unification of the fascia, the compartments that bind and wrap the body, including muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints, even the bones themselves (tensegrity and the double bag theory are important concepts every bodyworker should be versed in). Kinetic chains are looking through the lens of movement. The kinetic chains explore how the neuromuscular activation acts on the fascia compartments and how these activations connect, creating a synergistic whole.

Now let’s look at what sets The 5 Primary Kinetic Chains poster series apart.

The 5 Primary Kinetic Chains are based on the movement of the contralateral gait. Our nervous system is hard wired for developmental movement to learn to walk and run so that we can hunt and evade predators, survival.

The 5 Primary Kinetic Chains have roots in the concept of the core subsystems which was introduced by Dr. Andry Vleeming. These core subsystems, slings, or transmission systems, do not operate in isolation from the rest of the musculosketal system. The whole fascia network is involved in movement. A kinetic chain is the synergistic relationship of how structure is responding to movement.

The illustrations of The 5 Primary Kinetic Chains are beautifully done and give a three-dimensional feeling of movement. Each kinetic chain is color coded with three levels of depth that represent the three categories of the muscular relationships. The bold color are the subsystems: the major players in Vleeming’s core slings. The mid-tones are the prime movers: the muscles that have positional advantage to do the most work. The lighter tones are the synergists: the helper muscles. Every part is working in concert to create balanced and efficient movement.

To make it easier for use in a learning or clinical setting the muscle charts are organized joint by joint.

Another feature of the poster series is that each chart has a Principal Action. I refer to this as the Master Template. These five Principal Actions are present in all integrated movement. Our breath, relationship to gravity and shock absorption, dynamic stability through the axis, and ability to store elastic energy — and then translate that elastic energy — is a holistic approach to movement.

The Myofascial Meridians and The 5 Primary Kinetic Chains complement each other, and together unify a more complete understanding of integrated movement.

 

 

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Complementary Movement

The Five Primary Kinetic Chains rely on a fundamental principle: efficient movement requires the integration of a stable yet dynamic foundation so that the body can generate the power needed for locomotion.

The Anterior Spiral is a culmination of everything that we’ve discussed previously. As such, let’s review how the previous four kinetic chains have worked together to get us to this final kinetic chain.

The Intrinsic system is related to the nervous system and breath. The breath is a barometer for our movement. How our breath is integrated with our movement determines how our nervous system responds. If we move in a manner by which the movement breathes the body, the sympathetic nervous system can remain down-regulated, thus giving us access to refined motor control. If instead our breath reaches the threshold of cardiovascular distress, or we are holding our breath out of bracing or fear, our sympathetic nervous system becomes up-regulated and arms the body with a flood of chemistry.

One of the markers for stress tolerance is the capacity to return from an aroused sympathetic nervous system back to a calm parasympathetic down-regulated state of being. A large percentage of our population is stuck in an up-regulated sympathetic nervous system. This is a stress reaction that results in inflammation in the body contributing to decreased healing and regenerative ability. As a result, it is becoming popular to “train” the vagus nerve — the tenth cranial nerve — to experience arming and disarming the nervous system.

There are some very good modalities to specifically address an up-regulated sympathetic nervous system. Our personal practice is one way we can take responsibility for our stress levels. Tia Chi, Qi Gung, Shamatha Meditation, and Yoga are but a few examples. I personally find getting acupuncture to be very much a sattvic practice. I go very deep into meditation as I’m observing the energy shifts in my subtle body. For people that are attracted to manual therapy, Cranial Sacral Therapy is a wonderful way to engage the nervous system and the breathing apparatus. Nervous system health very well may start with the subtle aspects of how the cranial sutures are integrating with breath and movement.

The Deep Longitudinal Kinetic Chain is about how we interact with gravity and shock absorption. Our bodies are under a constant compressive force. The energy of the compressive force changes as movement and locomotion further generates kinetic energy. The energy of our bodies in motion must be absorbed and translated. The energy is distributed across the fascial fabric of our bodies.

This energy becomes a dynamic platform, the Lateral Kinetic Chain. The Lateral KC provides dynamic stability so that the appendicular skeleton has a foundation from which to work off. Without this foundation, the body would be at a disadvantage in generating stored elastic energy.

In developmental movement, the reflexive motor learning that is hard wired into our nervous system, we see that the movements are all about creating dynamic stability with the intention of getting us upright and using a bi-ped strategy of locomotion, the walking gait.

With an established dynamic platform, we have the capacity to store and release elastic energy. Elastic energy is stored in the tissues in two modes: lengthening or stretching and coiling or compressing. When tissues lengthen or stretch, the fascia’s elasticity stores energy. This would be like stretching a rubber band across your finger and releasing it; the rubber bands soars across the room. Likewise, winding up the rubber band on a model airplane illustrates the second mechanism of storing and releasing elastic energy. As the rubber band coils tightly, energy is stored; more coiling equates to more compression that stores energy to release.

The Posterior Spiral Kinetic Chain is the avenue the body uses to coil elastic energy into the fascial springs that perpetuate the energy of the walking gait. The body is utilizing both modalities (lengthening and coiling) for activating the fascial fabric to generate stored elastic energy. As the Posterior Spiral KC is coiled to release that energy, the ipsilateral anterior spiral is lengthening. It is a coiling of one side of the body and a lengthening on the opposite. The body is utilizing both pathways simultaneously, to generate stored elastic energy.

The Anterior Spiral completes the gait cycle. Elastic energy up to this point has been stored into the tissues, and now the body is poised to do something with that energy. The body will now translate the stored elastic energy into the complementary movement. The forward motion generated by the push of the posterior spiral is realized through the leg swing of the anterior spiral.

The ability to effectively store and release elastic energy is paramount to athletic performance. In the video, notice the quality of movement this athlete displays. The timing of arm drive and leg drive, the depth of absorbing kinetic energy, and how the explosive energy increases with each shock absorption phase.  Her movement is brilliant and demonstrates healthy integrated kinetic chains at work.

The 5 Primary Kinetic Chains working together create an integrated whole. If one or more of the components are unable to engage, then we need to isolate the issue and through motor learning, reengage and integrate back into the whole. The kinetic chain charts are meant to be a map for inquiry, as we explore who is playing and who is not, the charts can help us to discern what disengaged players need to get back in the game.

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The Body Map

Our choices for responding to our environment depends on the relationship between our body map and the environment. The body map is how the brain sees what movements are available to solve the movement equation. How we create integrated movement is by assembling the available building blocks to which we have access via the body map.

Integration starts with individual building blocks. To develop a complete body map, we need to disassemble movement into its smallest components. When we have conscious control of these smaller components, we can then start to assemble them into bigger blocks. This is the process of building the body map.

When we have a gap, a blind spot, a place that we are unable to access, the motor control center will come up with a strategy to move around that blind spot. This is an adaptive process, and this is a compensation.

We find these blind spots by asking ourselves where in our movement we have lost integration. We can observe blind spots in others when we observe overexertion, clunky movement, or their faces wincing in pain.

Ideally, our movement is like flowing water: smooth, controlled, and efficient. Water is always taking the path of least resistance. Likewise, efficient movement is learned by using the least amount of energy to accomplish the most amount of work.

As our body map expands, the motor control center has more choices for finding an efficient solution to the movement equation. This is how our movement becomes refined and more efficient.

How do we become the inner observer and cultivate deeper awareness of our own response to gaps in the body map and compensation?

The answer to that question is by introducing body map capacity programming.

Priming the nervous system for work capacity is a multi-step process. First we must recover the movement to which we no longer have access. This requires the disassembly of movement to its smallest components, individual joint articulation. Then we prime each joint by using the functional compass. This wakes up the mechanoreceptors that relay position and optimize kinetic chain sequencing. Priming the joints brings circulation and lubrication to the joint capsule and surrounding tissues. After the nervous system is primed, we can then expand on the individual building blocks and we start to assemble multiple movements into kinetic chain sequences.

Yoga asana and martial arts kata are examples of formats for assembling kinetic chains of movement. Individual goals, impediments and discipline of movement should be considered when developing a body map practice that is tailored for you and your needs.

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The Functional Compass

The Functional Compass logo represents the potential of joint movement, articulation, and integration.

The directions of the compass, cardinal and ordinal, are movements that happen across sagittal, frontal, and transverse planes.

Next we have movements that rotate around a plane. These movements have a fulcrum or a midpoint in which the body’s orientation defines the movement. In aeronautics, the terms pitch, roll, and yaw neatly describe movement around a plane.

Pitch is related to the sagittal plane. Forward bends, back bends, and shoulder bridges are examples of the body having a fulcrum allowing movement around the sagittal plane.

Roll is related to the frontal, or coronal plane. Lateral flexion of the neck or side bending are examples of roll. Gate Pose in yoga asana is a favorite posture that uses roll as a means of getting deep into lumbar lateral flexion.

Yaw is related to the transverse plane. The rotary action of turning the head side to side and twists are good examples of yaw. The rotary action of the thoracolumbar fascia is a key component to the walking gait. Without the action of storing and releasing elastic energy through the thoracolumbar fascia, the musculature would be overworked.

When we move, the body doesn’t isolate a muscle or a specific plane of motion. The body integrates across multiple fascial structures, bones, joints and muscles. These integrations create spirals in the body as we move through and around multiple planes at once.

When I look at movement, I ask myself several questions. What do I notice is happening in the body? Who is engaged and is overworked? Who is not engaged and is underworked? Then through investigation, I discern what the structure needs to reengage the players that are disengaged. The Functional Compass provides a road map for that process.

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The Spiral Engine

Encoded in our bodies is the master blueprint, the DNA Helix. The structure of the DNA Helix represents energy efficiency. The structure looks like a coil, a spring.

Springs are efficient ways to transfer energy. That could look like the coil springs on your automobile absorbing the bumps in the road. These are called compression springs. They absorb energy and compress. The energy is then released and the spring returns to its “normal” length. Tension springs work from the opposite perspective. Your garage door has huge closed coil springs. When you open the door, the spring goes from its resting length to its expanded length. The energy to “stretch” the spring is released to assist in closing the garage door.

There are many kinds of springs. We use springs in all the machines that we encounter in our lives. Fascia is the spring in our bodies.

Fascia has several roles in our bodies. It is also called connective tissue which is the primary component of our structure. Fascia wraps and binds every part of our body creating a unified whole. Fascia is also a communication avenue for the nervous system. Messages about our environment and movement are relayed through fascia. Fascia plays a crucial role in our movement.

At a muscular level, fascia binds all the different layers into a unified muscle belly. Muscles act on the fascia, the fascia translates that energy into movement. The energy potential of fascia is relative to the ability of the tissues to move between the resting length and its coiled activated length. The coiling action is storing elastic energy and likewise, the uncoiling is the translation of elastic energy. The ability of tissues to store elastic energy is directly proportionate to the work capacity of those tissues.

The iconic model airplane with a rubber band that drives the propeller is a great example of stored elastic energy. We wind up the propeller by hand. That energy is then stored into the rubber band. When we release the propeller, the stored elastic energy is then translated into the propeller. The propeller spins the opposite direction giving the craft movement, flight.

Our bodies are not so different than the model airplane example. The fascial sheath of the thoracolumbar fascia is the primary fascial spring for locomotion.  When we walk, the torso is twisting on the axis of the pelvis. This rotary action of the posterior spiral is winding up elastic energy into the thoracolumbar fascia. The stored elastic energy is then released into the complementary movement resulting in forward motion.

This is a simplified example, as the thoracolumbar fascia has the potential to store and release elastic energy in all three planes of movement. When you add two or more planes of movement together, the result is a spiral. During the gait cycle, all 5 Primary Kinetic Chains are working together synergistically, and the body’s movement can be described as complementary, contralateral spirals. This is the essence of The Spiral Engine of Locomotion™.

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Balance

The stability or mobility question has been brought to the table many times. Which is more important ~ to be stable or to have mobility?

There are different perspectives to the answer depending on one’s field of study, the application, and the lens that you look through.

Here is my take: stability and mobility are in an interdependent relationship. One can’t effectively happen without the other.

Stability and mobility rely on each other to keep the structure safe. Stability is to software as mobility is to hardware. Stability requires motor control, the ability of the nervous system to respond appropriately as movement occurs. Mobility is the hardware, the organization of bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles and fascial structures. The structure is responding to movement, messages of how movement is occurring, and how this information is being relayed up to the motor control center. A strategy is then derived as a response to the changing environment. The quality of movement being expressed is a product of integration of both stability and mobility.

Dynamic Stability is perhaps a better term to describe the product of stability and mobility. The question then shifts from “stability or mobility” to whether the body can appropriately respond to movement over a complete range of motion and a changing environment. For example, if you are hiking a steep loose trail, and the earth shifts under your feet, is the responsive mobility available for you to keep from losing footing and possibly spraining an ankle?

Dynamic Stability keeps the structure safe. The result of stability + mobility is neuromuscular integration that is available to respond appropriately to a complete range of motion. When life happens, and the environment shifts in an unforeseeable way, dynamic stability ensures an appropriate response is available.

In the movement known as the walking gait, the Lateral Kinetic Chain completes this dynamic platform. The body has just absorbed the kinetic energy through the deep longitudinal kinetic chain, the strike phase of the gait. That energy now needs to be grounded into a stable yet dynamic platform, the lateral kinetic chain, that will allow the body to generate the next movement, the power generation of the posterior spiral kinetic chain. The axis of the spine is integrating all three planes of motion while centralizing the energy from the previous shock absorption phase. As a result of dynamic stability, the body is prepared to generate propulsion, the forward motion of the walking gait.

The midline action of maintaining balance is another important action of the lateral kinetic chain. Complementary neuromuscular activations are working in cooperation to balance the relationship of movement, kinetic energy, gravity, and ground force reaction. These complementary actions provide the dynamic base so that the appendicular skeleton can generate energy.

Movement is a balancing act between environmental factors and the structure’s ability to respond appropriately. For example, when we look at the sculpture of rock stacking, we see the dance between the unique attributes of each rock. The size, shape, and center of gravity of each influences the balance point. Each rock complements the previous. The balance points create an axis, an axis of stability. Without this axis, the stack of stones would fall.

This demonstrates the third principal action of The 5 Primary Kinetic Chains ~ Axial Stability for Appendicular Mobility. When a dynamic base is in place, the appendicular skeleton can express its potential of generating stored elastic energy in movement.

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Shock Absorption

The second primary action of The 5 Primary Kinetic Chains is shock absorption. Shock absorption is the kinetic energy as it waves through the body. This concept has several contextual layers, let’s further explore shock absorption.

Kinetic energy refers to mass in motion. The earth we live on is a spinning ecosystem that comprises of many elements. Gravity is one of those elements (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gravity)

When we walk, run, or jump, our musculoskeletal system puts into motion the mass or weight of our structure. The product of the interaction between musculoskeletal activation, gravity, and ground engagement produces a wave of energy, a kinetic wave. Energy is a wave form, as it has a measurable amplitude and modulation. The amplitude is the height of the wave, or intensity, and modulation is the length of the wave, or duration.

When we are standing still, gravity is pressing our structure into the earth. In order to counter gravity, or to balance the force of gravity, we push into the earth creating a rebound. As the popular yoga saying explains, one must “root to rise, or stand tall like a mountain.” Without this action to counter gravity, we would collapse under its compressive force.

When we add momentum, our kinetic energy increases, and more energy is required to counter-act the compressive forces. Let’s explore this experientially. Take a few normal steps and notice how the impact of the strike phase of the gait is reverberating up your structure. Now increase the kinetic energy and transition from a walk to a trot. Notice how your body requires more of your structure to dissipate the energy.

Let’s increase the energy wave another notch. Try jumping up with both legs. See how much vertical height you can clear. Feel the leg drive from pushing into the earth and the absorption of kinetic energy as you reengage with the ground as you land. Now do the same thing, but drive and land with one leg only. Notice that that single leg absorption is asymmetrical. Take inventory of how this energy moves up the body, joint by joint. This is ground force reaction and is a key principal action in movement.

What happens when a joint or multiple joints are unable to participate in the distribution of kinetic energy throughout the body during the shock absorption phase of a movement? The structure must come up with a solution to dissipate the kinetic energy, this is called a compensation pattern. This is a maladaptive learned behavior that then is reinforced with each cycle of shock absorption.

Shock absorption is an essential element in structural assessment for integrated movement. The kinetic chain chart in the Deep Longitudinal anatomy poster gives great insight into how the energy of shock absorption waves through the body.

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The First Breath

My partner and I were swimming in Barton Springs Pool in Austin, TX the other day. She asked me if I would give her swim lessons. She prefaced the request with, “anyone that has given me swim lessons has left me in tears.”

I thought about her reaction for a moment, and immediately zoned in that the very first thing to learn about swimming is to just be comfortable in the water. This is very similar to the first instruction in meditation, to take a comfortable seat. In meditation, the second instruction is to observe the breath. Following the sensation of the breath anchors the mind to awareness. This helps the mind from being hijacked by cognitive thinking.

Being comfortable in the water also requires finding ease in breathing. Often, people are in a fear response when while swimming. In order to not activate the central nervous system’s sympathetic response, one needs to learn specific movement skills so that breathing is not stressful.

One might think that water is a natural element, as we float in our mother’s belly before being born, and people should be at ease in that element. However, almost everyone experiences their first fear response at the moment of transition from the lungs full of amniotic fluid to the pressurization of the air from taking their first breath.

A component of the fear response is called the startle reflex. The action of the startle reflex is a sharp inhalation, flexion and internal rotation. This is in opposition to the integration of the breathing apparatus, as optimal inhalation is extension with external rotation.

Correcting the disconnect between fear based breathing to a well-integrated breathing apparatus is a must for finding ease in the water – and frankly in life!

Here is the progression I use to teach people to find their ease in water and is quite simple. You can do it on your own or have someone assist you:

Floating on your back ~
Feel the buoyancy created by expanding the ribcage and lungs.

Floating on your side body ~ Prerequisite for side stroke, side body is also the end position for breathing in the basic crawl, or freestyle.

Using fins and snorkel as props ~
This builds more confidence in the water.

Floating on your belly with a snorkel ~
Find ease face down in the water.

Building blocks of stroke technique ~
There are many levels of techniques to build a strong foundation.

Once the foundation is in place, start to remove the props ~ Development of shoulder timing to neck rotation so that one can arrive at side body also allows for a restorative breath.

Understanding the breathing apparatus is integral in any mind body activity. The charts in the Intrinsic Anatomy Poster outline all the players participating in respiration.

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The Master Template

The 5 Primary Kinetic Chains are the master template for not only the walking gait as I’ve explored in my anatomy art, but for all locomotion and movement. Different movements have different relationships to gravity and the environment, and they use different muscular activations. (These activations are referred as kinetic chains, force transmission systems and sling systems.)
For example, swimming doesn’t have ground engagement like the strike phase of the gait. Instead, the spear phase (reaching through the water) is analogous to the deep longitudinal system. The kinetic sequence runs from the hand and through the anterior body to the opposite leg. The arm lines are doing the work in swimming that the leg lines are doing in walking.
Let’s dissect The 5 Primary Kinetic Chains as movement concepts:
1) Intrinsic:
The intrinsic system is the nervous system’s relationship to breathing. Our breathing apparatus, the mechanism of pressurization systems, has a direct effect on the autonomic nervous system. “You can’t own your movement until you own your breath.” This is about our breath mastery in relationship to our movement.
2) Deep Longitudinal:
The deep longitudinal system is about shock absorption. Shock absorption is the ability for kinetic energy to wave through the body joint by joint. If the wave is unable to move freely through the fascial system, that energy has to be absorbed in some way (such as a compensation). Imagine ocean waves breaking on the beach. The forces flow rhythmically absorbed by the sand. Now put a rocky buttress in front of the same wave and there is a tumultuous energy exchange of the crashing into the buttress.
3) Lateral:
The lateral system is the midline stability of the structure. The axis of the spine (axial skeleton) needs dynamic stability so that the appendicular skeleton has a platform by which to generate energy. Without the stability of the axis, the arms and legs will be impaired to generate power or work production.
4) Posterior Spiral:
The posterior spiral is the generation of stored elastic energy. The fascial matrix is a potential energy system. Efficient movement uses muscular activation to act on the fascial system. The fascial system spreads the load over as much area as possible which increases efficiency. As the energy winds up in the tissues, the potential release of that energy assists work production in the complementary movement.
5) Anterior Spiral:
The anterior spiral is the release of elastic energy into the complementary movement. Elastic energy can be released in different ways across the structure. When you are watching graceful athletes moving in profound ways, you are seeing elastic energy being stored and released in an efficient way. The energy is spread across the entire fascial fabric and the result is seemingly effortless movement.
These concepts are always present in integrated movement:
Breath~Shock Absorption~Axial Stability~Stored Elastic Energy~Translation of Elastic Energy
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Synergistic Dominance

The charts in the Five Primary Kinetic Chains Anatomy Poster Series outline a primary physiological principle in movement: bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles and fascia do not work in isolation. They work synergistically to create movement.

When movement is balanced and efficient, the players are all cooperating with each other. If movement is out of balance and inefficient, the result is compensation in the structure. This maladaptive compensation follows some specific physiological principles.

The first of these principles, synergistic dominance, is when one synergistic component of the structure is compensating for another synergistic component. More specifically, one component is overworked or up-regulated in relationship with another synergist that is underworked or down-regulated.

Synergistic dominance can show up over a spectrum of compensatory strategies. It can show up locally or globally. A local example would be the relationship of a muscle to itself. The distal end of a muscle can be up-regulated for a down-regulated proximal end of the same muscle. Synergist dominance will also show up when multiple muscles are working together. For example, hip flexion has several muscles that work synergistically. The iliacus, psoas, tensor fasciae latea, rectus femoris, adductor longus, and sartorious are the major contributors to hip flexion. If one of these muscles is up-regulated, that can functionally down-regulate the others.

Synergistic dominance also shows up globally. Kinetic chains, the manner in which the musculoskeletal system organizes itself, is not merely a local occurrence. Kinetic chains organize across the entire fascial fabric. The lateral kinetic chain provides a good example of global synergistic dominance. Throughout the dynamic platform of the stance phase of the gait, the ankle, pelvis, torso, and neck all need to play well together. If they are unable to do so, then one player will take over doing the job of the player unable to engage. Single leg stance is a great global assessment protocol to discern synergistic dominance of the lateral kinetic chain.

Synergistic dominance can also show up in kinetic chains that work in unison. For example, during the gait cycle, the posterior spiral kinetic chain is paired with the opposite deep longitudinal kinetic chain. Likewise, the lateral kinetic chain is paired with the opposite anterior spiral kinetic chain. These pairings of kinetic chains have an interdependent relationship. One relies on the other in the efficiency of storing and releasing elastic energy. If one chain has a dysfunctional component, it is going to have an effect on the other, they are in a synergistic relationship.

The other side of the synergist coin is the functional opposite. Muscles that work in opposition to one another rely on a principal called reciprocal inhibition. Reciprocal inhibition defines that the agonist, contracts or shortens, as the opposite, the antagonist, must lengthen. Simply, if one muscle is shortening then the other must be lengthening. If the muscle that should be lengthening is unable to do so, the effect is that the muscle that needs to shorten becomes down-regulated. It is unable to overcome the up-regulated muscle, as it can’t compete.

Functional opposites happen across kinetic chains just as synergists do. The foundation of understanding synergistic dominance builds the prerequisite for investigating functional opposites. As movement evolves, essentially there are two things happening:  some tissues are shortening while others are lengthening.

The charts included in The 5 Primary Kinetic Chains posters provide a map for synergistic relationships. By mapping the synergists, one can then decode functional opposites. This is a very useful learning tool as well as a visual reference for your clients and patients.